Space geostrategy

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Geostrategy in space (also referred to as astrostrategy) deals with the strategic considerations of location and resources in outer space territory. Initial geostrategic concerns, as humans reach further outside Earth, are expected to focus on how strategic locations and resources relate to the Earth itself. Following further development of human presence in space, geostrategic concerns are expected to place greater focus on the relation of geostrategic locations and resources in space with one another.

Geography of space[edit]

Building upon Halford J. Mackinder's divisions of Earth's geography into strategic regions, astrostrategists divide space into distinct areas with unique strategic characteristics. The key to each country's strategic relationship with the various regions is transportation technology, especially as it concerns military mobility. If a state could not physically control a strategic area, then it must at least endeavor to deny control of the area to other powers. Because of the vast resources available to those who can control territory and locations in space, any state that could command space would exercise tremendous influence over all others.

Earth
This area encompasses the physical Earth stopping just before the altitude at which unpowered orbit is possible. Just as a coast is to the ocean, the atmosphere here is to space—Earth is the transition region between astrostrategy and geostrategy. It is the crucial territory for transport, take-offs, landings, communication, production, and maintenance.
Earth Space
Between the lowest possible orbit, and the geostationary orbit, this area is the operating region for all military and communications satellites and networks, including reconnaissance, navigation, and space-based weaponry. It also includes the zone through which medium and long-range ICBMs make their highest altitude stage of transit.
Moon Space
This region encompasses the band of space beyond geostationary orbits to just beyond the Moon's orbit. Within this space lies the Moon itself, as well as the strategic Lagrange points.
Solar Space
This region is simply everything within the Sun's gravitational field, outside the orbit of the Moon. Current ability to exploit this region is quite limited, but its resources are vast, including the possibilities of colonization, terraforming, and planetary mining of the other planets in the solar system, as well as their moons, and asteroids. This area is the future potential "lebensraum" for an extraterrestrial population.

Orbits[edit]

Spacecraft in stable planetary orbits need expend no fuel. As there are only precise routes that result in stable orbits, there is already a scarcity of resources in space's space. The useful life of a spacecraft is in many ways determined by the stability of its orbit (which can be disrupted by orbital perturbations) and its fuel reserves. Perturbations are caused by the interaction of gravitational fields other than the Earth's—the Moon, Venus, Mars, the Sun, Jupiter, etc.—as well as defects in the Earth's own gravitational field caused by its imperfectly spherical shape.

The distance of an orbiting craft or satellite to the Earth also affects its utility: the lower the craft, the better its observational capacity in monitoring events on the Earth's surface; the further away the craft's orbit, the more easily a stable orbit is achieved.

There are generally four categories of orbits around Earth, defined by the distance and angle of their orbit:

Low altitude orbits:
Generally ranging between 150-800 km above the Earth's surface, these orbits are used primarily for Earth reconnaissance and manned flight missions. Because of the low altitude, up to 14-16 orbits can be completed per day. Satellites can be placed in low altitude orbits by cheap two-staged rockets. (See also: Low Earth orbit)
Medium altitude orbits:
Ranging from 800 km to 35,000 km above the Earth, these orbits are used for linked satellite networks. Global positioning system satellites occupy medium altitude orbits, triangulating positions on Earth. Telecommunication networks may also soon inhabit this orbital strata. They can achieve anywhere from 2-14 orbits per day. (See also: Intermediate circular orbit)
High altitude orbits:
From 35,000 km and beyond, these orbits are useful for providing the maximum continuous coverage of Earth, with a minimum of satellites necessary. Orbits or this distance allow for one or less orbits per day. An orbit exactly equal to one day is called a "geosynchronous orbit", and a geosynchronous orbit placed at a 0° inclination from the Earth's equator (a "geostationary orbit") appears as a fixed point in the sky when viewed from anywhere on the Earth's surface. Only three geosynchronous satellites are necessary to gain coverage of the Earth's entire circumference. As they do not appear to move, they can also be easily accessed by non-mobile antennae. Global communications and weather satellites occupy these types of orbits. Their main drawback is an inability to view the polar regions, above or below 70° latitude. (See also: High Earth Orbit)
Highly elliptical orbits:
To overcome the deficiencies of polar viewing from high altitude orbits, the highly elliptical orbit was developed. Rather than being symmetrical, such an orbit can have a perigee as low as 250 km, and apogee of up to 700,000 km. When placed highly inclined with an apogee of 36,000-40,000 km, the satellite can dwell over the polar region for several hours before racing around the Earth at very high speeds. When three satellites are placed in the same orbit and networked, they can provide continuous surveillance and ground access. (See also: Molniya orbit, Polar orbit)

Lagrange points[edit]

This diagram shows the five Lagrangian points that occur in a two-body system (e.g. the Earth and the Moon).

Lagrange libration points are theoretical points of gravitational anomaly, wherein the gravitational effects of two orbiting bodies would cancel each other out. French mathematician Joseph Louis Lagrange calculated that there were five points where the gravity of the Earth and the Moon would cancel. An object orbiting around any one of these five points would remain permanently stable, without the fuel expenditure usually associated with maintaining such a position. These points remain fixed relative to the Earth and the Moon in theory, although orbital perturbations render only two of the five Lagrange postulated practically stable. L1, L2, and L3 are subject to unstable environments, and thus are not practically usable as theorized. The so-called Trojan points, L4 and L5, are theoretically stable, although this, of course, remains speculative. The military and commercial value of such stable points would be immense. A U.S. group called the L-5 Society was created to advocate control of these points.

Magnetosphere[edit]

The Van Allen radiation belts. The Outer Van Allen Belt holds trapped electrons, while the Inner Van Allen Belt holds trapped protons.

The location of Earth's Van Allen belts is of strategic importance, because these areas contain highly charged particles which can damage spacecraft travelling through them.

The Inner Belt ranges from 400-1,200 km, depending on latitude, and extends outward 10,000 km, with its most lethal area 3,500 km out. The South Atlantic Anomaly can potentially disrupt satellites in polar orbits, but usually does not pose a problem for manned spaceflights.

The Outer Belt ranges from 10,000-84,000 km, with its most lethal area 16,000 km out. The Outer Belt is affected by solar winds, and is thus flattened to 59,500 km in the area directly between the Earth and the Sun, and extends to its maximum distance in the shadow of the Earth.

A safe channel exists between the belts from 9,000-11,000 km, as the edges of the two belts are relatively benign.

Moons[edit]

The Outer Space Treaty forbids any military activity on the Moon. Currently, the resources available on the Moon and the cost they require to be extracted do not make it a crucial target. It has been argued, however, that the Moon could present other advantages of strategic importance.

  • As a shipyard: Lying at the bottom of a small gravity well, a shipyard available to construct space ships only with lunar materials would require less energy to launch than one built inside Earth's atmosphere and would require less complex operation and supply chain than one constructed in Earth's orbit.
  • As an observatory: The Moon always presents the same face to the Earth. Therefore it is a natural shield against artificial radiations from earth that could be used for space observation in the radio spectrum. Today most of the artificial objects are easily observable from earth's orbit, but in a world where some of these objects would have military applications and therefore would probably have some stealth abilities, such an observatory could be a valuable military asset. Additionally, the Moon lacks an atmosphere and an ionosphere that perturb many wavelength in earth-based observations.
  • As a bombing base. This idea has been first described in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein. Considering that the Moon has a very low escape velocity when compared to Earth's, it should be possible to build a cannon (or a mass driver, or even a trebuchet[citation needed]) that would simply throw rocks in Earth's direction. It is a non-orbital version of Kinetic bombardment.

Resources[edit]

The other planets, moons, and asteroids of the solar system have a tremendous set of untapped chemical resources.

The Moon has large deposits of aluminum, new ores of titanium, pure iron, calcium, and silicon (usable for photovoltaic solar energy production). Oxygen can be extracted from lunar soil simply by heating it. Even water from impacting comets remains around the edges of craters. The Moon's resources can potentially be accessed and utilized in the near-future.

History of space geostrategy[edit]

Cold War[edit]

The Space Race was a competition of space exploration between the United States and Soviet Union, which lasted roughly from 1957 to 1975. It involved the efforts to explore outer space with artificial satellites, to send humans into space, and to land people on the Moon.

Though its roots lie in early German rocket technology and in the international tensions following World War II, the Space Race effectively began after the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 on 4 October 1957. The term originated as an analogy to the arms race. The Space Race became an important part of the cultural, technological, and ideological rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Space technology became a particularly important arena in this conflict, because of both its potential military applications and the morale-boosting social benefits.[clarification needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Dolman, Everett C. Ed. Colin S. Gray and Geoffrey Sloan. "Geostrategy in the Space Age." Geopolitics, Geography and Strategy. Frank Cass: Portland, Oregon, 2003. pp. 83–106. ISBN 0-7146-8053-2

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